The following is a statement that Andy Stepanian made to the court as best recalled by himself and his support committee.
Seven Animal Rights Advocates Arrested
By ROBERT HANLEY
Published: May 27, 2004
NEWARK, May 26 - Seven animal rights advocates were arrested on Wednesday on charges of trying to disrupt the work of a New Jersey pharmaceutical testing company and threatening its employees and those of six companies doing business with it, the authorities said.
Those arrested were identified by the authorities as two officials of an animal rights group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, and five associates. From October 2001 to February of this year, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, recruited sympathizers online to vandalize property at the homes of employees of the pharmaceutical company, Huntingdon Life Sciences of East Millstone, near Princeton, and of the other companies, said Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey.
In its drug testing, Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British firm, mainly uses dogs, primates and rats, Mr. Christie said. He said all tests were required and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
He said the group posted, as part of the campaign, what it called the "top 20 terror tactics" to be used against companies and individuals, including invading offices, chaining gates shut, writing graffiti on cars and houses, flooding houses with garden hoses, smashing windows and sending defective e-mail messages in attempts to disrupt computers.
In addition, he said, the group often posted on its Web site the names and ages of employees' spouses and children and the names of the children's schools and various athletic fields where they were scheduled to play.
Mr. Christie denounced that tactic as among the group's most reprehensible.
"Their business, quite frankly, is thuggery and intimidation," Mr. Christie said at a news conference at his office here. "Our goal is to remove uncivilized people from civilized society."
He said F.B.I. agents arrested the seven at their homes on Long Island and in New Jersey, Seattle and Pinole, Calif., near San Francisco. Those apprehended in Pinole were identified as the group's president, Kevin Kjonaas, 26, who also uses the last name Jonas; its campaign coordinator, Lauren Gazzola, 25; and Jacob Conroy, 28, who the indictment said was affiliated with the group.
Those arrested in New Jersey were Darius Fullmer, 27, of Hamilton, and John McGee, 25, of Edison, both identified as associates. Two others, Andrew Stepanian, 25, of Lloyd Neck, N.Y., and Joshua Harper, 29, of Seattle, were arrested at their homes.
The indictment accuses all seven suspects of engaging in a conspiracy to violate a federal law that bans terrorism against animal enterprises, Mr. Christie said. The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In addition, Mr. Kjonaas, Mr. Conroy and Ms. Gazzola are accused of interstate stalking, or using the Internet illegally to instill fear, in three individuals who were identified only by initials. They also faced conspiracy charges in connection with interstate stalking. Each of those counts has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Mr. Fullmer, Mr. McGee and Mr. Stepanian were released on bonds of $50,000 each after appearances late Wednesday afternoon in United States District Court here. Mr. Christie said the other suspects were scheduled for court hearings Wednesday in federal courts in Seattle and San Francisco.
A court-appointed lawyer for Mr. Stepanian, John C. Whipple, said his client planned to plead not guilty at his arraignment, scheduled for June 15.
"He maintains his innocence," Mr. Whipple said. "Any activity he engaged in was lawful and was within his First Amendment rights." Mr. Whipple said he believed that Mr. Stepanian was now studying at C. W. Post University on Long Island.
Andrew Stepanian's brother John said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Andrew was an instructor on environmental issues in a special-education program in Nassau County. He also said his brother was active in a group called Food Not Bombs, which collects food for the needy from local stores and distributes it on weekends.
"He's a very peaceful person," John Stepanian said of his brother.
Donald J. McCauley, a lawyer who was assigned to represent both Mr. McGee and Mr. Fullmer for Wednesday's hearing, said both men maintained their innocence. Mr. Fullmer was identified as a paramedic during the hearing. A woman at the hearing who identified herself only as Mr. McGee's mother said he was attending law school. She refused to speak further.
The Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty group began its operations in Britain in 1999 and moved to the United States in 2001, maintaining an office until recently in Franklin Township, about 10 miles east of the research and testing lab. F.B.I. agents raided the building in April 2003 as part of the investigation that produced the indictment.
On its Web site, the group likens its activities to the Underground Railroad and the Boston Tea Party, and advocates protests, letter-writing, and what it calls publicity stunts to disrupt Huntingdon Life Sciences.
"SHAC is an uncompromising and unapologetic campaign to 'abolish' the hell that is H.L.S.," the Web site says.
A spokeswoman for the group, Andrea Lindsay, called the indictment "completely unfounded" and described the group's Web site as "basically a newsletter." She said the group often posted information about illegal activities by sympathizers. "We don't condemn it, but we don't participate," Ms. Lindsay said.
She also said that only Mr. Kjonaas and Ms. Gazzola were members of the group. The five others, she said, support its cause but do not represent it.
A spokesman for the company, Mike Caulfield, declined to say if it had lost money because of the animal rights group's three-year campaign. "We're profitable, but we've had to work harder than our competition to achieve it," he said.
Janon Fisher and Stacy Albin contributed reporting for this article.
Andy Stepanian was released from prison on 18 December 2008. He was sent to a halfway house in New York and will be able to return home in the coming months.